The biggest thing I can say before getting into what happened in the game is that the following players did not appear:
Mikael Granlund, Matt Duchene, Erik Haula, and Rocco Grimaldi.
These players are absolutely integral to the Nashville Predators’ lineup, so I wouldn’t get too worked up about lines yet. Aside from the obvious top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Viktor Arvidsson, the only other line that looked like a potential opening day line was that of Calle Järnkrok, Colton Sissons, and Luke Kunin. I would be willing to bet that it may still change.
What was plainly obvious, however, were the defensive pairings:
Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Dante Fabbro - Mattias Ekholm
Mark Borowiecki - Matt Benning
I wouldn’t look for these to change too much.
That being said, here are my major takeaways:
- Don’t worry about lines...yet. Check back on the lines during and after Sunday’s scrimmage. Coach Hynes said in his post-game presser that several of the missing players will be back in the lineup on Sunday. I would expect Haula (who has a brand new baby), Duchene, and Grimaldi back. Unsure about Granlund, as his return has to do with immigration.
- If Ryan Johansen thinks his line should drive play and set the tone for the team, they certainly showed that they are willing and able. Of course, Roman Josi was also SPOT ON, as he should be.
- Eeli Tolvanen was showcased on the Gold Team power play unit, which also featured Ryan Ellis quarterbacking. And while Tolvanen looked good, he was never able to finish. In his post-game availability, Tolvanen stated he felt like he needed to be better on Sunday (for the final scrimmage) to prove he belongs on the roster. Of course, when I asked Coach Hynes about the same subject, he seemed very satisfied with the decisions Tolvanen was making on the power play and felt he only needed to make minor changes to start finding the back of the net. The other thing I can say about Tolvanen is that he was certainly able to hold his own going up against Matt Benning. Ryan Ellis (at 5v5) seemed to have his number. But then again, you want your top pairing to have everyone’s number, right?
- Coach Hynes said there are spots available. He doesn’t like the concept of the “roster” vs. “taxi squad” side of things. The way he sees it, the team (and probably all teams) needs to have a “next man up” mentality as they head into the season, as all players will probably see time between the two squads. Another interesting development is Hynes’s comment about figuring out how everyone will be used situationally. There are many scenarios that have to be planned for. So, while there were key guys missing in the scrimmage, there also may be times in the regular season where key guys will be missing and the team needs to know how to adapt.
- The taxi squad question is still up in the air as far as I can tell. Mathieu Olivier, who saw a bit of NHL time last season, put up some big numbers with two solid goals. Playing on a line with Brad Richardson and Nick Cousins seemed like a perfect set up for the 6’2” 209-pounder, as their physical style of play falls right in line with his own. I would say he’s a definite lock for the taxi squad and will probably see some ice time this season.
- Yakov Trenin had a beautiful goal and showed he was planning to continue bringing a physical edge to his game. Look for him to stick around.
- Luke Kunin looked right at home on the team. I liked what I saw out of him. Between Kunin, Richardson, Cousins, Borowiecki, and Benning (all the players acquired in trades and free agency) this will be a physical team.
- Add to that Mathieu Olivier and Yakov Trenin and this team has a skilled, yet physical depth that I haven’t seen in a VERY long time.
The team will practice today, followed by another “game day” routine on Sunday, culminating in the final Blue vs Gold Scrimmage on Sunday night. I should be there covering all the action. If anyone has questions about the game or anything they want me to look for on Sunday, give me a shout on twitter @SCSOTF.